School administrators in K-12 educational institutions are expected to be effective leaders who coordinate the work of the staff and adapt the teaching-learning process to recent changes in the sphere of education. For this reason, school administrators need to have developed leadership skills in order to demonstrate the effective and ethical decision-making, as well as the features of a change promoter and successful communicator (Paracha, Qamar, Mirza, Hassan, & Waqas, 2012). James Erickson, District Superintendent of Webster School District located in Webster, Wisconsin, was interviewed to analyze his leadership style and practices in the context of the leadership theory applied to environments of the K-12 educational institution. The questions for the interview were formulated to reveal the details of Mr. Erickson’s leadership (Appendix A). This paper aims to provide results of the interview with Mr. Erickson on his leadership skills, approaches to decision-making, ethical responsibilities and values, successes in managing the change, approaches to promote the shared vision, abilities in developing the certain organizational culture, and skills in motivation.
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Leadership Style and Decision-Making Approach
Mr. Erickson notes that he combines features of two leadership styles to achieve the strategic goals and create the positive working environment in Webster School District. He follows the principles of the relations-oriented leadership combined with features of the instructional leadership. According to Mr. Erickson, this approach is most effective in the context of a school district because much attention should be paid to direct interactions with the staff and to providing clear instructions to achieve the set goals (J. Erickson, personal communication, October 2, 2015). Mr. Erickson also states that his goal is to develop the attributes of the transformational leader to adapt to constant changes in the educational sphere and help the team accept them effectively.
Superintendent’s focus on the relations-oriented leadership is reasonable because he needs to use any opportunity for increasing the staff’s commitment and collaboration (Balyer, 2012; Devono & Price, 2012, p. 2). The elements of the instructional leadership are important for K-12 institutions where the quality of education depends on the work organization, guidelines, standards, instructions, and the communication with leaders (Bhengu & Mthembu, 2014, p. 45). Mr. Erickson’s aim to develop the qualities of a transformational leader can be easily achieved because referring to the acquired skills, he should focus more on valuing and empowering the staff, motivating employees, and creating the clear vision of the goal.
The approach of Mr. Erickson to decision-making depends on several principles: decisions need to lead to the change; choices should have positive financial and psychological outcomes; decisions should be supported by the careful analysis of the evidence. Such approach followed by Superintendent can be discussed as effective from the perspective of the leadership theory because these principles are steps to valuing innovation in the organization, and they allow making decisions based on the proper evaluation of the available data (Sabanci, Sahin, & Kasalak, 2014). While following these approaches, Mr. Erickson can be rather flexible in his decision-making, as well as responsive to the rapidly changing situations (Quin, Deris, Bischoff, & Johnson, 2015, p. 72). This approach leads to the effective organization of the district work according to observed trends in the educational sphere.
Ethical Recommendations and Organizational Culture
In his work, Mr. Erickson needs to address the variety of ethical challenges, including the resolution of conflicts, the issue of unfairness, the problem of the unequal distribution of resources, and prejudice in the teaching team. While focusing on ethical recommendations, the leader states that resolution steps for all the mentioned issues should be described in the code of conduct of the school district to minimize controversial situations (J. Erickson, personal communication, October 2, 2015). This leader’s approach is correlated with principles of the ethical leadership when a person pays much attention to identifying ethical values and norms that should be followed in the organization (Sahin, Cengiz, & Abakay, 2013). To create the positive ethical environment in educational institutions, leaders need to pay more attention to building collaborative communities, promoting positive ethical interactions, and creating the comfortable atmosphere for all employees.
According to Mr. Erickson, the leader should focus on creating the organizational culture based on certain visions and goals. It is important for teachers to work as the part of a team that has the shared values and goals. This idea is one of the basic concepts in the leadership theory because effective leaders work not only to formulate organizational values but also to promote them in the team (Roby, 2011; Wilhelm, 2013, p. 63). This approach allows building the productive and positive culture in the school district. Mr. Erickson can create the strong organizational culture because of promoting ideas of trust, teachers’ empowerment, and cooperation.
Role of Facilitating the Change, Shared Vision, and Motivation
Effective leaders are often innovators and promoters of the change in organizations. Mr. Erickson states that he associates the necessity to facilitate the change with the transformational leadership, but his approach of a relations-oriented leader is also important to communicate the goal of the change and create the vision of the change necessity among the employees (Williams & Hatch, 2012). While comparing these ideas with the traditional theory, it is possible to state that Mr. Erickson follows the right path to leading change in the school district.
Superintendent also admits the necessity of focusing on the shared vision to influence the teaching team and make them follow the same goal. At this stage, it is important to demonstrate the developed communication skills and act as an inspirer and motivator (Yilmaz & Kilicoglu, 2013, p. 16). Mr. Erickson follows such approaches to creating the shared vision and to motivating the staff as team and face-to-face meetings, recognition of the staff’s views, the formulation of the vision appropriate for the staff majority, empowerment, and distribution of duties and responsibilities. The leadership theory also proposes such approaches as the intellectual stimulation, inspiration, and stimulation of the interest (Balyer, 2012). In this case, Mr. Erickson can also adopt more approaches to communicating the necessity of change and motivate employees.
The interview with Mr. Erickson is useful to indicate what strategies are followed by modern school district administrators in terms of effective leadership. The analysis of the administrator’s answers in the context of the leadership theory demonstrates that District Superintendent has developed leadership skills, and he intends to utilize the most successful approaches in his practice. Nevertheless, the leader still needs to improve his practices to follow the transformational leadership style. Mr. Erickson should focus on more flexible and motivating practices typical for the transformational and change leadership in order to enhance his abilities in creating the productive team and successful organizational culture.
Balyer, A. (2012). Transformational leadership behaviors of school principals: A qualitative research based on teachers’ perceptions. International Online Journal of Educational Sciences, 4(3), 581-591.
Bhengu, T. T., & Mthembu, T. T. (2014). Effective leadership, school culture and school effectiveness: A case study of two ‘sister’ schools in Umlazi Township. Journal of Social Sciences, 38(1), 43-52.
Devono, F., & Price, T. (2012). How principals and teachers perceived their superintendents’ leadership in developing and supporting effective learning environments as measured by the superintendent efficacy questionnaire. National Forum of Educational Administration & Supervision Journal, 29(4), 1-14.
Paracha, M. U., Qamar, A., Mirza, A., Hassan, I., & Waqas, H. (2012). Impact of leadership style (transformational & transactional leadership) on employee performance & mediating role of job satisfaction. Global Journal of Management and Business Research, 12(4), 1-11.
Quin, J., Deris, A., Bischoff, G., & Johnson, J. T. (2015). Comparison of transformational leadership practices: Implications for school districts and principal preparation programs. Journal of Leadership Education, 14(13), 71-85.
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Roby, D. E. (2011). Teacher leaders impacting school culture. Education, 131(4), 782-790.
Sabanci, A., Sahin, A., & Kasalak, G. (2014). Characteristics of a school leader according to the views of school principals: A qualitative study. International Journal of Business and Social Science, 5(13), 177-185.
Sahin, M. Y., Cengiz, R., & Abakay, U. (2013). The investigation of the ethical leadership roles of school administrators and organizational commitment of physical education teachers. International Journal of Academic Research, 5(4), 153-160.
Wilhelm, T. (2013). How principals cultivate shared leadership. Educational Leadership, 71(2), 62-66.
Williams, S. M., & Hatch, M. L. (2012). Influences of school superintendents’ servant leadership practices to length of tenure. Journal of Organizational Learning and Leadership, 10(1), 36-58.
Yilmaz, D., & Kilicoglu, G. (2013). Resistance to change and ways of reducing resistance in educational organizations. European Journal of Research on Education, 1(1), 14-21.
School Leader Interview Questions
- What approaches to decision-making do you use in your practice daily?
- What leadership style do you follow and how is it appropriate to the context of K-12 education?
- What ethical challenges do you face in your work and what ethical recommendations can you provide?
- What is your impact on the organizational culture in the school district?
- What are your approaches to facilitating the change?
- What practices do you follow to guarantee the shared vision among the staff?
- What approaches do you discuss as effective to motivate the school staff?